Valtteri Bottas will need to match the performances of Lewis Hamilton at a minimum next season if he is to stay put at Mercedes in 2020, according to team boss Toto Wolff.
Bottas is under pressure to maintain his place at the Brackley-based outfit beyond 2019 after recording a lacklustre 2018 campaign, where he failed to win a single race.
Team-mate Hamilton trounced the Finn by 161 points in the final drivers’ standings in a year he clinched his fifth title, winning 11 races on his way to the crown in the 21-race calendar.
Mercedes’ reserve driver for this year Esteban Ocon, who failed to secure a seat on the grid after being dropped by Racing Point F1, is tipped to be Bottas’ likely successor should he underperform.
“Valtteri knows exactly where he needs to be next year,” said Wolff as quoted by Motorsport.com. “He needs to have all the bad luck gone and perform on a level with Lewis.
“That is what is needed for the 2020 year. He knows very well that, and he has that in him.
“Lewis improving means Valtteri needs to improve. I’ve seen that improvement all the time with him, but you are going against a five-time world champion.
“He needs a start where is right up there with Lewis and all the other drivers for the championship, that is what he needs.”
Bottas, who finished four places lower than Hamilton in the world championship, is backed by Wolff to beat the Briton, believing all the 29-year-old needs is momentum in his results to take the fight to him this season.
“We are seeing the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last six years, and there is a reason why he is a five-time world champion,” Wolff added.
“Beating a five-time world champion at the peak of his activity, peak of his performance, is going to be very difficult and Valtteri knows that. But I think that he has it in him.
“I think that he can win – he has proven it this year on a few occasions, but he had bad luck or was in a position where he could not win.
“I think if that turns into a positive momentum that is actually driving for the championship, I think that Valtteri can win the championship.”